The 1920s era brought a lot of change, perhaps particularly in America. It was a time of advancement in everything from entertainment to electricity, leading to its alternate names such as the Jazz Age, the Age of Intolerance, and the Age of Wonderful Nonsense.
It was also a time when women redefined their roles, and streamlining the daily work in the kitchen was a big part of that. That’s why we dug into the past to create a Valentine’s Day for today!
Of course, when you begin to dig into the past, you never know what you’re going to find, or where you’re going to end up. That’s the best way to sum up how this Food Channel shoot came together.
Valentine’s Day has always been replete with two things: pink and chocolate, and sometimes the unfortunate pink chocolate. On a day when hearts and candies abound, we were determined to find something more timely for our focus.
As we began to pour over trends from our insights team, two things stuck out: the pineapple upside down cake, and a renewed interest in Art Deco design. The two could seemingly be no further apart aesthetically—until we realized that their time periods overlapped.
Suddenly a few ideas begin to hit paper. The Art Deco stylized desserts felt too complex and modern, and a Flapper Valentine’s Day felt so narrow that it wouldn’t have any culinary depth. Days passed, and the chance discovery of a 1927 copy of Delineator magazine presented us with a two-page spread on the marvels of Crisco. As we thumbed through it, we found—just a few pages later—the marvel of refrigeration and gelatin molds. And that’s when it hit us.
The 1920s were a culinary boom of new technology and innovation—from sliced bread and refrigeration, to canned goods and frozen food. So that’s where we started, looking at not only what was popular during the 1920s, but also at what was new.
Once we had the list of our culinary ideas, it was time to narrow it down to actual recipe creation—which was a tough job in itself. Pear skillet cakes, chocolate dipped angel food cake, devil’s food, chocolate caramels—what stays and what gets cut? We decided to go for the icons, some of which we left in their original state, such as the Chicken a la Rose. Others we gave a modern update to, such as the Personal Pineapple Upside Down Cake. And, of course, we had to add in a little intrigue with the Waldorf Pudding, a dessert served on the Titanic’s first class menu. Even though there is no true record of the recipe, it became infamous after the tragedy.
Once the food list was narrowed down, it was on to telling the story with props. We scoured flea markets and vintage shops looking for period-appropriate silver, glass and paper. A lucky find of 1920s Valentines gave us an initial boost to hunt and dig through multiple venues, comparing glass and crystal types and patterns, immersing ourselves in the music, cooking methods, and style of the era.
The final result is a culmination of multiple minds, immersed in different aspects of 1920s culture with a passion for food and storytelling. As you look through these recipes you may find things you haven’t had in ages (or ever), and maybe a few things that haven’t graced a kitchen table in nearly 100 years.
We hope you enjoy the recreation as much as we enjoyed the creation of this series. Here are the recipe links:
Personal Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Caesar Salad (Also see our video demonstration)